TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday (Aug 1) urged all nuclear states to conduct themselves "responsibly" in non-proliferation efforts at a time when he said the road to a world without nuclear arms had become much more difficult.
Kishida, the leader of the only nation to have suffered wartime nuclear attacks, warned that global divisions were deepening, particularly since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the start of the conflict obliquely raising the possibility of a nuclear strike.
North Korea, which has carried out numerous missile tests this year, is also believed to be preparing a nuclear test.
"The world is worried that the threat of the catastrophe of use of nuclear weapons has emerged once again," he said in a speech.
"It must be said that the path to a world without nuclear weapons has suddenly become even harder."
Kishida was speaking at the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) at the United Nations in New York City, the first Japanese leader to do so.
A native of Hiroshima, which on Aug. 6, 1945 became the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear bombing during the waning days of World War Two, Kishida has made nuclear non-proliferation something of a cause.
The second nuclear bombing, of Nagasaki, came three days later.
Kishida was foreign minister when US President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima in 2016 as the first sitting US president to do so, and has selected Hiroshima as the site for next year's Group of Seven nations summit.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday he will visit Hiroshima for the Aug 6 anniversary.
"We call for all nuclear states to conduct themselves responsibly," regarding non-proliferation efforts, Kishida said.
"From this standpoint, we support negotiations on arms control and nuclear reduction between the United States and Russia, and encourage similar talks between the United States and China."
He said other efforts should include boosting transparency regarding nuclear weapons, strengthening efforts such as the non-proliferation treaty, and announced the establishment of a US$10 million fund to educate youth leaders about the dangers of nuclear weapons.
"Nagasaki must become the last bombed city," Kishida said.
He also said peaceful uses of nuclear energy should be promoted while maintaining its safety, lessons learned from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Following a surge in fuel prices and a June heat wave in which Japan skirted a power shortage, Kishima has promoted nuclear power and and has said he has asked for nine reactors to be online by the end of the year, up from the current five.